Saturday, June 30, 2018
Another example of how the sound of Joy Division has been transformed over the years into something hugely commercial. The Slow Readers Club, (and that's a great band name), also hail from Manchester. Perhaps not quite the kind of thing I'd but but it would sound just wonderful coming out of a radio. Here are two from their latest, (third), album.
Yikes. Forgot to post this yesterday.
Friday, June 29, 2018
Very promising young London band from that loosely affiliated group of outfits such as Goat Girl, Shame and the Fat White Family circle. This sweats the Nineties and feels like eating dodgy fish and chips from an old copy of Melody Maker. Evocative, concise and seedy but in a rather wonderful way. Sorry aren't apologising and why should they.
Thursday, June 28, 2018
Wednesday, June 27, 2018
This stuff is called Bedroom Pop apparently. I can understand why but Austin Texas band Why Bonnie have too much cumulative power to be confined to that particular room. They seem to be pumping out EPs at a rate of a knots this year and here are just two examples of their art.
Tuesday, June 26, 2018
Austin Texas songwriter Daphne Tunes, (basically a guy called Santiago RD working with a set of like-minded musicians), have all of the chord and mood changes you could ever want. They have them in spades and might remind you of Betty Serveert, Lemonheads, Sebadoh, East River Pipe, Elliott Smith or Red House Painters, bands and artists who excelled in these things twenty years or so back in time or Big Star, who were doing something not dissimilar twenty years before that.
Or they might just make you glad to be listening to them, on their debut EP Volume 1 which came out earlier this year and is full of poignant, well judged mood shifts. Big Star's Radio City and Sister Lovers are the most obvious precedents for this but this is not easy stuff to pull off quite as well as they do. Daphne Tunes yearn and bliss out to their hearts content and makes me at least anticipate Volume 2 greatly.
In their own words the songs are 'mostly trying to catch the color blue, a lighter shade of blue, that's evocative of a feeling in the morning. It was trying to be fresh, but not too woken up, sort of slow-going, drowsy pop or Sunday pop.'
Monday, June 25, 2018
Sunday, June 24, 2018
Saturday, June 23, 2018
Fabulous, slightly melancholy French Indie song and video, pretty much a solo project for Marion Brunetto, also a member of The Guillotines. DIY, and living proof that some of the best things are made at home. The video, more than matches the song illustrating the fact that if someone else around you starts running, it's probably a good idea to run too!
Friday, June 22, 2018
Athens, Georgia's Mothers drop this ahead of their second album, the formidably titled Render Another Ugly Method which on this evidence should be well worth hearing. Not unprecedented, there are traces of local contemporaries Deerhunter and Warehouse here, but also some of the introversion of the wonderful first Throwing Muses album from way back when. This starts as one song and ends as another and both are quite brilliant.
Thursday, June 21, 2018
They don't write them like they used to. But of course they do, if you care enough to look. Here for example. Café Oblivion, the finely titled, (people haven't gone to cafes seeking oblivion since the Existential set on the Left Bank have they?), the fifth album from Melbourne's Oh Mercy which came out earlier this year. They're a band that seem to have little or no profile over here which seems plain wrong.
Oh Mercy is essentially the project of a fellow called Alexander Gow who seems to have a fascination both lyrically and melodically for specific six-stringed aspects of the Eighties. Over the course of Café Oblivion I found myself minded at various points of Mike Scott, Matt Johnson, Roddy Frame and Grant McLennan. Fondly.
I chanced upon Gow and Oh Mercy through the Mr Jeremy Dylan - My Favourite Album Podcast listed on the right hand side of this page. There Gow sings the praises of Liberty Belle & the Black Diamond Express, the fourth album by his Australian counterparts The Go Betweens which came out in 1986. It's well worth a listen as a fascinating illustration of how a formative influence can provide the gateway for artistic birth and growth.
Café Oblivion is well worth a listen too. Gow and Oh Mercy have a lot of Go Betweens' spirit going for them. Literate, thoughtful, romantic, informed by books, films, art and life. They're a real find. Australia comes up with another musical boundary. Read a fascinating track by track account of the new record here, and then make a point of getting to know it better for yourself and then perhaps venture further into their back catalogue. That's my plan anyhow.
Wednesday, June 20, 2018
More maximum heaviosity from Protomartyr who won It Starts With a Birthstone's nod for album of the year in 2017 with the remarkable Relatives in Descent. Now they're back with more wry missives from the abyss of despair, accompanied by Kelley Deal on the splendidly morose four-track Consolation E.P.
A rather lovely offering along the Sufjan way of doing things from Clay Hips from a duo who have made their way from the Bay Area and now live in live in Germany and Finland respectively. This comes from their debut album Happily Ever After, just out.
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
I saw Interpol, way back in 2001, in New York City playing with The Walkmen. I was highly unimpressed, they struck me as a Joy Division cover band which I didn't see any need for and I . pretty much dismissed them. The Walkmen meanwhile were just splendid.
Almost twenty years on I've come to reconsider. Joy Division is pretty much an irrelevant comparison point at this point. Interpol have earned their right to their own space. They deserve respect just for still being standing at this point in time and still having something to say. And this, from a forthcoming album, has all their trademark menace and dread.
Monday, June 18, 2018
One of the more interesting records of 2016 was The Visitor, the debut album of LA based musician Khadhja Bonet. Very much rooted in the Soul sound of the early Seventies at its most extravagant, think of Minnie Ripperton's Les Fleurs, Isaac Hayes's Hot Buttered Soul or the gorgeous orchestral swirl of Marvin Gaye's What's Going On, while borrowing freely from the fertile imaginations of the likes of George Clinton and Sun Ra, it was a luxuriant re-imagining of the past, a waking dream.
In her self-penned biography, Bonet wrote of herself: 'Kad-Ya was born in the backseat of a sea-foam green space pinto. After spending an extraordinary long time in her mother's plasma, she discovered the joys and gratifications of making noise with her hands and face while travelling at maximum velocity through intergalactic quadrants.' There's no real answer to this, but you have to at the very least respect its chutzpah and the music very much lived up to its hype. It was a glorious, technicolor Cosmic Soul statement. There was nobody else around attempting quite what Bonet was aiming for here.
Two years on and Bonet's new record Childqueen consolidates and enhances the achievements of The Visitor. It's another gorgeous, multi-faceted and deeply layered record, entirely self-written, played and produced. Like bathing in milk or sleeping in silk sheets, it's a perfectly realised vision, like watching time-lapse film of petals opening, fruit ripening and raindrops plopping on enlarged images of flowers. A special album indeed!
Sunday, June 17, 2018
Two former members of Joanna Gruesome come together to form a band called after after Black Sabbath's Into the Void and The Raincoats The Void. It's as good a description of their sound and intention as you could want and these three songs are the band's first fruit.
Heavy and sweet all at once. Short and to the point, taking ingredients from Punk, New Wave and Grunge in equal measure, they're sure to be someone's favourite new band.
Saturday, June 16, 2018
Hope Downs, the debut album from Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever out yesterday from Sub Pop, a record I had no little anticipation for and one that didn't disappoint me in any respect. The Melbourne band have been showered with critical garlands over the past couple of years with their two splendid EPs laying the groundwork for this, surely as good a guitar album as anyone will put out this year.
The record sparkles in a remarkable way that will remind those of a certain age of those of their youth, the songs and albums that made you fall in love with this stuff in the first place. The band are well aware of this themselves, commenting on the amount of 'grey hairs' that tend to attend their gigs. There's good reason for this as their songs are distinctly reminiscent of a fabled lineage of bands, The Go Betweens most obviously, but also Flying Nun bands The Clean and The Bats and the still thrilling guitar play of Television. They had Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd while Rolling Blackouts go for a three pronged attack both in terms of guitars and songwriters and lead vocalists.
There's a restless spirit and forward momentum from first to last. Also a determined positivity which is wonderful to hear in these most troubled of times. The record comes racing out of the traps and never once lets up, ten tracks of small characters on a vast landscape, quite clearly an Australian album that evokes sky, sand sea and outback like the best Triffids and Go Betweens records. The band themselves give an apt description of their sound and approach as 'tough pop - soft punk', they're Indie but more expansive and in some ways more ambitious than their immediate peers
It's a record that just invites you to come back to it again and again. Lyrically flowing and continually interesting, picking up the baton from McLennan and Forster and running freely with it. So while this is not necessarily anything new, there's so much invention with familiar ingredients, Hope Down is an album of eternal return and Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever a band of current wonder and future promise.
Australian Milk! Records signings and support band on Courtney Barnett's recently completed European tour. And here's their new single ahead of their third album Keep Up which is due in August. And it's a cracker. A tune that will be firmly in your head by the end of the song and a wonderful promo video where the band take their turn on every form of transport possibly imaginable. Fun!
Friday, June 15, 2018
In honour of the glorious debut album from Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, released today (to be reviewed in time), here's a new playlist. The thought behind it is how much wonderful old school indie guitar records I've been hearing recently. It feels, to my middle aged ears, like some kind of rebirth of the Eighties records that I first fell in love with, but these are new and beautifully fresh sounding records that have all come out in the last eighteen months. So you get Korea's Say Sue Me, Canada's Alvvays, New Zealand's Salad Boys, Sweden's Holy Now, England's Orielles and Goat Girl, America's Holy Tunics and Lawn, and Australia's Goon Sax and Flowertruck. And plenty more. Much better played that the original C-86 stuff it has to be said!
Christine & the Queens made considerable waves a couple of years back with their, (or probably more accurately her), debut album Chaleur Humaine. The record didn't really do it for me at the time as I didn't really go for the very Eighties feel of the music and imagery. Janet Jackson came very strongly to mind.
Two years later and things have changed. Probably I have. The wonderful new Natalie Prass album is definitely allowing me to re-experience the joys of Janet Jackson. And Christine & the Queens new song Girlfriend sounds, and looks, (on the state of the art video posted here, somewhere between West Side Story and Michael Jackson), pretty great. Perhaps its time for me to re-investigate Chaleur Humaine.
Thursday, June 14, 2018
The World Cup starts today and it seems only appropriate to include the promo for Parquet Courts wonderful Total Football which focuses on the glorious, iconic related culture of Panini stickers. Highlighting the lyrics of the song of which A.Savage is probably justly proud. The Nineteen Seventies Dutch football team set up as an archetype of collective-based freedom set up against American individualist corporate, political and sporting power-structures. The USA, unusually didn't make it to the finals this time but here is a worthy contribution that manages to namecheck Hesse, Twombly Tzara, Mina, Dada and Beatles. Respect. Here also is a clip to illustrate what they are talking about.
Wednesday, June 13, 2018
Married American couple The Saxophones' debut album Songs of the Saxaphones is structured around the centrally defining conceit that we are all living in the Fifties still. While the spell holds the record is deeply affecting, imposing an aura of calm equilibrium for me at least yesterday at work as the clock ticked towards lunchtime.
Recorded over ten days in Portland, Oregon and drawing on Exotica of artists from that remote decade like Martin Denny and Buddy Ho and all kinds of cool jazz, the record is sparsely orchestrated and all the more effective for it. Alexi Erenkov's voice has the faintest lilt of Tim Hardin's haunted moan and it contributes to a mood that's almost stillness itself.
There's flute, synthesiser and the sparsest drum and bass work imaginable. But very little of it. Less is more though in this case, and this is a record to turn to for particular moments when calm is required, and provides graceful and much-appreciated relief from whatever passes as 'reality' nowadays.
Tuesday, June 12, 2018
Second of the Ash mini-series. An early b-side, very much in Nirvana mode. Always a prime influence on the band.
Snail Mail's Lindsey Jordan is operating in a crowded field. There are no end of emotive, young female singer-songwriters crowding in on the Indie scene nowadays and it's pretty difficult to make yourself heard above the clamor of rather similar sounding records.
Nevertheless, Snail Mail are getting no end of attention for their debut album Lush. Pitchfork love it of course. There's nothing that floats their boat as entirely as this kind of lovelorn, plaintive Indie strumming. Fitting very well within the lineage of rather glum American artists, both male and female. File between the Replacements, Chastity Belt and Waxahatchee. Snail Mail more than hold their own. It's a fine, if slightly familiar album. Here's one excellent and sparky track!
Monday, June 11, 2018
All American Seventies Pop Culture gets a suitably grandiose nod from fans of all such things, Ash, who are still growing strong, having released a very good album this year called Islands though probably very few noticed. A three day min-series on this particular thread for this band.
Sunday, June 10, 2018
Very good Cerys Matthews, on a sunny Sunday morning in June. Though she didn't play the whole nine minutes. So here it is!
A breathy and really rather beautiful EP called North Hatley from Canadian artist Munya, (these are two of its three songs). Of course she has the French language going for her, never a bad thing which places this in the tradition of Ye Ye, Francoise Hardy and Vanessa Paradis. Neat, woozy update anyhow!
Saturday, June 9, 2018
I can tell you next to nothing about Washington D.C. band Bad Moves except that they are very fond of the whole Power Pop sound and do it very well. This, their new single, does a very good take on that early Cars chugging guitar sound with apparently Kim Deal on lead vocals.
Friday, June 8, 2018
This is familiar. It sounds quite a bit like Atlanta, Georgia's Omni. But then there are an awful lot of bands that sound rather like Omni nowadays. It also sounds a bit like Devo at their jerkiest. And that band got pretty jerky. Or Wire, or Beefheart, or Pylon, or Gang of Four or Television or Pere Ubu. So that's probably enough to tell you that this is a rather angular record.
And not one that demands that you like it. It's like the awkward, uncomfortable person in the room that everyone notices but is too polite to comment on. Lithics hail from Portland, Oregon but seem as if they belong in America's Industrial former heartland. Akron or Cleveland. so shaped by a jarring, abrasive landscape this record sounds. But just as Eraserhead, Uncontrollable Urge or The Modern Dance were strangely alluring, so is Mating Surfaces, the band's debut mini-album.
Just six songs long, and probably not one your mother would like, it's nevertheless a notable record. Taking sounds and shrieks that may all have been made before in some shape and form but twisting them sufficiently cleverly that it feels like something new. Tonight we're going to party like it's 1978, and Lithics are the house band!
Thursday, June 7, 2018
'Dance, dance. dance to the radio...' along with Californians Cruel Reflections. They're far from the first band to worship at the shrine of Unknown Pleasures. An interesting article might be written about those who have and why exactly they have then chosen to model their careers so specifically on this one record. Sounding like Joy Division is not exactly something you can disguise or divert in wildly diverse directions so telling and finite is the template they laid down. Particularly if your lead singer goes out of his way to give his very best Ian Curtis impression as singer Julio Cesar Francisco Garcia-Solares does here. But nobody else can be Joy Division or have their momentous impact on music again because they did what they did as well as it can possibly be done. That moment in time has gone.
And here we are forty years later and the influence of that band has spread exponentially to become something immeasurable and vast in popular culture. When bands are making Joy Division moves we know immediately that they are making Joy Division moves. And Cruel Reflections, over the course of their recently released debut album One Year never do anything but 'make Joy Division moves'. To all intents and purposes they are a Joy Division tribute band who play their own songs rather than just doing cover versions of Digital, Atmosphere and Isolation.
Where Cruel Reflections differ from Interpol and Editors, (bands who have taken this route before), is that Cruel Reflections are only surface intense. They make the moves but you don't get the sense that they feel the emotions. They seem to want to appeal to nightclubbing suburbanites and channel Joy Division's dark melodicism to urge them onto the dancefloor but only to dance as Andy McCluskey used to at the front of the stage for OMD rather than Curtis's flailing and utterly felt dying fly exorcism.
It reminds me of a visit to New York more than twenty years ago when a friend and I paid a visit to a New York club called English Disco which was just that and we were surprised to hear a Joy Division record followed by a Duran Duran one. This would never happen in the UK. Perhaps Americans could appreciate the tunes without being affected by the sheer cultural heaviness of songs like Transmission. Cruel Reflections almost make light of the angst, 'I'm fucking dying, I'm fucking dying, I'm fucking dying, I'm fucking dead...' Goes second song DED, and it's all dead catchy!
It's hard to work out exactly how serious Cruel Reflections are with their lyrical concerns which feature brooding teenage self-absorption about unattainable girls called Cynthia who you once wrote a novel about. It seems almost like pastiche, with all the while those priceless Joy Division musical tropes throbbing around them. You have to admit, the songs are damn good, even though strictly speaking they're all Joy Division songs except for the one that decides it wants to be The Cure's A Forest instead.
So One Year imagines an alternative reality where Curtis decided not to end it all, went to the States as he'd been due to with the rest of the band, cheered up, and was taken to the bosom of adoring crowds who loved their cool austere package. Where they sold out, lost their credibility but became bigger there than The Psychedelic Furs, Depeche Mode or the Cure could ever dream of being and Curtis moved to California rather than going back to Macclesfield. It's an extremely strange object which says something about the decidedly odd world we're living in here in 2018. In some ways it's a rather silly record but you've got to hand it to Cruel Reflections. The tunes are great!
Wednesday, June 6, 2018
This is pretty fearsome. From East Brunswick All Girls Choir whose debut album Seven Drummers on Melbourne's Milk! Records, I was rather taken with back in 2014. They've taken their time following that up but here they are again and this bodes extremely well for their forthcoming record Teddywaddy, due at the end of the month.
This is Australia at its most brutally extreme. It was a frontier society once of course and Essendon 1986 plays on and bleeds from the tradition of the outback, Ned Kelly, The Boys Next Door, The Birthday Party, The Scientists and The Triffids at their most uncompromising. With a gloriously cinematic promo, featuring label boss Courtney Barnett taking an atypically poker faced cameo as a barmaid and the archetypal brooding stranger entering the hall where the band are playing. Highly promising!